Make hay while the sun shines, advertise when it isn’t

The advertising approach know as ‘recency’ can be compared to dating. Young men believe that first dates should be like a product launch, full of glitz and glamor, because they know that you only get one chance to make a first impression.

On the other hand, mature gentlemen have come to realize that having a long term impact is more about frequently sharing bits of intimate information with the object of their passion over time. The first example requires tremendous effort and resources to maintain, while the latter can be achieved within means, and to a lasting effect.

So what’s the Nakumatt Supermarket approach to advertising? I think it’s based on the premise that the best things in life come in squirts. Big blitz advertising in one season and then silence; deafening silence. From ‘you need it, we’ve got it’ to ‘now you see me, now you don’t’!

The executives at Nakumatt have built an impressive company over the years, irrespective of it’s recent troubles. They transformed the retail industry through big thinking, consistency and great consumer insight. Their timing couldn’t be better because when they began to rise, 80 percent of the retail industry in Africa was informal.

They’ve demonstrated phenomenal growth since 1987, continuously beating the regions GDP and stock index performance while establishing 65 stores in 6 countries. Their success was certainly a catalyst for the advancement of the rest of the retail industry in Kenya and the development of major shopping malls that set the platform, which chain stores and retail networks built upon.

Knowing that the global retail sector ranks high in advertising, we reviewed the local scene a number of years ago expecting to see similar trends, but apart from the brief sparks of brilliance, there was nothing else. We were not the only ones with this insight as we found a multitude of marketing consultants, advertising agencies and PR companies clamoring for their attention, all of whom met a cold shoulder.

We therefore predicted that as long as Nakumatt was growing in the double digits by capturing untapped markets which were falling in line like dominoes, and without any formidable competition in sight, then they would keep making money without advertising. This would continue until the conditions changed — when the market was approaching saturation point, and with competitors coming out of the woodwork, diminishing any differentiation that Nakumatt might have had.

When Macaulay said “nothing except the mint can make money without advertising,” he obviously hadn’t spent time in present-day Africa because we have seen many companies doing that here. However, if we take Macaulay’s thoughts and apply them in the long term, then it comes to bear in our region, with the example of Nakumatt in mind.

In the digital age and the mass adoption of e-commerce and evolving shopper experiences, it is inconceivable that a major retail network like Nakumatt would not have even  a basic website — but just like the government bailout package, their website is currently under construction.

Maintaining positive visibility through advertising and public relations, with a recency strategy as a minimum, insures companies against the unexpected when crisis hits or when blindsided by competitors and new market trends. It also and helps to keep stakeholders confident and supportive through the hard times.

 

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